This Is Not A Wardrobe Door is live at Fireside.
Once upon a time, when I was a little!Merc, I read all the Chronicles of Narnia. There was a lot of shiny for little!Merc: talking animals! …yeah, mostly the talking animals.
But then little!Merc got a little older and began getting frustrated by elements in those books. Why did people get too old to go back to Narnia? Why did Susan get kicked out? What’s the metric for how young, or not-old, you have to be to go home? (In the end, it seemed like the only answer was arbitrary handwaving from a lion-god and the only way around that was DYING HORRIBLY.)
Little!Merc did NOT approve. Little!Merc’s disapproval built into rage for awhile, and they stopped reading those books. The magic was gone. It was…like losing something you cared about. Something you could never really replace.
Because, deep down, little!Merc believed that there was a Narnia out there somewhere they might get to go to some day–but what if they got too old first? And what if they got there, but then got kicked out for reasons they didn’t understand? How awful would that be, to find a place you belonged so perfectly and then get thrown out forever and ever?
Better not to want to go at all. It hurts less.
Years later, a slightly older Merc wrote a story. It was not an easy story. It poured out in a day and left Merc shaking, terrified, vulnerable. Because what Merc had written was the story little!Merc had desperately wanted long ago. A story in which you got to go back. Where you got to find your home again.
I almost didn’t submit this story. I’d finished it and immediately, doubtroaches piled onto my brain and were like, this is terrible no one will ever want to read this stop now. So I quickly hid the story in my HD, just barely resisting deleting it. (I save everything, even if I bury it deep down in the labyrinth of folders no one can ever find the way in or out.)
I didn’t want to tell anyone I’d written it. I didn’t dare show anyone.
A few days before the late ’14 submissions window for Fireside was about to close, a month after I’d finished this story and hidden it away, I was browsing my files to see if I had anything that would fit.
There was this door story tucked away, and I tentatively pulled it out. It…was pretty good. No, dammit. It was perfect.
That tiny moment of courage to look at the story and believe in it, to remember little!Merc and their sorrow and frustration about stories that had failed them in the past, was what I needed. I sent the story to Fireside. I expected a fast rejection, whereupon I thought I would hide the story away forever.
Brian White bought it. January 4th, 2016, it was published. I am unspeakably proud of this little story–and myself, for pushing through the doubts to share it with you all.
This is the art Galen Dara made for the story.
“This Is Not A Wardrobe Door” is my letter to all the little (and not so little, and not so young and not so old) readers who wanted that magic world, who were kicked out and told they didn’t belong. Because, in the end, we can make our own doors and walk where we want.